Today I had the privilege of attending a workshop with Mark Smith, a deaf dancer and choreographer for ‘Deaf Men Dancing’. Mark gave us an insight into his experience of growing up as a deaf person and how he uses his memory of the first time he heard sound to choreograph his dances. I attended alongside hearing people and deaf people alike and a great time was had by all! We all began by signing our names and allowing ourselves to move freely with no music; it’s certainly harder than you think with no beat to follow but this was a judgement-free space which made it much easier for us to explore our own rhythms.
Each attempt at dancing was met with hands waving a beautifully silent sign of applause and a beaming smile from Mark as we incorporated BSL into his own choreography. It was so inspiring, from my perspective as a hearing person, to see how Mark moved with the music and taught us to feel the rhythm through our bodies, rather than focusing on lyrics, using signs to transition between movements. It gave me a new insight into the world of non-verbal expression and how much fun you can have, as Mark encouraged us to be as cheeky as possible with our actions.
By the end of this experience, I knew I was still an outsider looking in on a different world – but I certainly was not an outcast. We can all dance like no-one’s listening!
– Jess Walker